What is metastatic cancer?
Cancer becomes metastatic by process called Metastasis. It is when cancer cells start moving
from the original affected area of your body to another region, where they will form another
abnormal growth. The movement occurs after the cell breaks away from the primary tumor due
to suitable growth. By this process an early-stage breast cancer or lung cancer can become
metastatic breast cancer or metastatic lung cancer. After breakage, the cells then move through
your body’s blood or lymphatic system to other organs, where they would manifest and start
forming another duplicate tumor known as the metastatic tumor. When observed under a
microscope and tested in other ways, features of the original cancer would be found. These
features are very different from tumors that would develop on the secondary cancer site. An
example is given, if cancer cells from breast cancer move to the lungs, the metastatic tumor
formed in the lungs would be from breast cancer cells and not lung cancer cells. Cancer care
specialist determines whether your cancer has metastasized by a combination of clinical,
laboratory and imaging tools.
Cancer metastasis occurs during the fourth stage of cancer. When diagnosed with metastasized
cancer, the oncologist would always tell them where the cancer started and refer to it as cancer of
unknown primary origin (CUP). Therefore, cancer treatment for metastasized cancer is usually
similar as that for primary cancer, even though tumor markers would be located in a different
How Does Metastatic Cancer Develop?
Cancer metastasis develops in a series of numerous steps, which start from the invasion of
nearby body cells. As the cancer cells grow in the primary tumor, they get into the cells of the
neighboring organs; for instance, if the cells were originally in the trachea, there are high
chances that the cells would start infecting the esophagus since they are so close. Upon invasion,
the cells would then move through the walls of blood vessels or lymph nodes close to the
primary tumor. In our example of tracheal cancer, the cells would move through neck lymph
nodes. When the cells have attached to the walls of the various lymphatic or blood vessels, the
cells would automatically get into your body’s lymphatic system or circulatory system. These
systems travel all around the body, from the toes to the skull. As the blood moves to carry the
cancer cells, the cells might stop in a small blood vessel like the capillaries in a distant organ.
Since the cells no longer move, they would invade the surrounding tissue the same way it had
done to the blood vessel at the primary tumor site. Growth and cell division would continue until
it forms small tumors that cannot be detected easily. The tumor grows just like other organs in
the body. This means that blood vessels would develop around the abnormal tumor in the
secondary site. This tumor would get nutrients and grow into a bigger tumor which would
require cancer treatment like a newly diagnosed primary cancer. In most situations, especially for
people with a strong immune system, the cancer cells often die along the journey. However, if
the cells get favorable conditions, they will always grow on the secondary site.
What are the Signs of Cancer Metastasis?
Metastatic cancer will not always show you symptoms, so you won’t feel it happening. In cases
where the symptoms occur, the nature and severity of the symptoms largely depend on the size
of the growing tumor as well as the location it has affected. For example, metastasis to the
appendix would be less notable than metastasis to the lungs or the limbs. Some of the commonly
observed metastatic cancer symptoms include pain and fragmentation when the metastasized
tumor is on the bone. If the cells spread to the brain, the victim would have seizures,
convulsions, severe headaches, and dizziness which might be associated with a loss of
consciousness. The most notable metastasis is of the lung since one would face difficulty in
breathing and shortness of breath which would always force you to seek treatment. In addition, if
your cancer has spread to the liver, you would develop jaundice and other symptoms of liver
damage like hepatomegaly. Cancer care specialists very carefully differentiates signs of
metastasis from those symptoms associated with other health conditions such as arthritis or acid
Are Metastatic Cancers Curable?
The prognosis for patients with metastatic cancer depends on the individual and type of cancer. Some metastatic cancer types e.g., breast cancer have better treatment options than other like metastatic pancreatic cancer. Metastatic cancer treatment basically involves slowing its growth. With help from a cancer support community, one can survive with metastasized cancer for many years since the symptoms are well relived. Many cancer patients with metastatic cancers join can support groups for social and emotional support. patients opt for palliative care when they believe that they can no longer fight the metastasis.
Did you know that women have a 1 in 78 chance of developing ovarian cancer in their lifetime? It should be no wonder, then, that 21,410 women receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis each year.
Ovarian cancer starts in the ovaries. The ovaries are female reproductive organs responsible for producing eggs and hormones. Ovarian cancer can spread from the ovaries to other regions, including the abdomen and pelvis.
It’s critical to treat ovarian cancer before it metastasizes. Allowing ovarian cancer cells to leave the ovaries can make a full recovery less likely. Plus, advanced ovarian cancer can lead to further complications like fertility loss.
Are you wondering: do I have ovarian cancer? Then you need to look out for the early signs and symptoms. Keep reading for everything you need to know about ovarian cancer, signs you might have it, and your treatment options.
There are over 30 different types of ovarian cancer. Each type gets its name from the location in the body where the tumor originates.
Here are the most common types of ovarian cancer.
Epithelial tumors make up 85–90% of ovarian cancers.
Epithelial tissues line the entire body, protect hollow organs and cavities, and make up hormone-producing glands. Epithelial cells also cover the ovaries. Ovarian cancer originates from these cells.
Only 2% of all cases originate from germ cells.
Germ cells are precursors to gametes. Gametes are also known as egg and sperm cells. Germ cell ovarian cancer starts in egg-producing germ cells.
Unlike other types of ovarian cancer, germ cell tumors are more common in young women and teens. And the good news is that germ cell tumors tend to only affect one ovary. This can improve the ability to maintain fertility.
Stomal tumors are the least common type of ovarian cancer of these three. It makes up less than 1% of all diagnosed cases of ovarian cancer.
Stroma is connective cells binding organs to epithelial tissues. Stroma also surrounds the ovaries, where its job is to produce hormones. This is also where stromal tumors begin.
Vaginal bleeding is a sign of a stromal tumor and the reason why many stromal cancers are caught early on. If you’re post-menopausal, vaginal bleeding may be a sign of this cancer type.
Who’s At Risk?
50% of diagnoses occur in women over the age of 63. This type of cancer also tends to occur more commonly in white than black women. Also, obesity may be a risk factor, though we need more research to learn why.
Gene mutations to breast cancer genes 1 and 2 cause a small number of ovarian cancer cases each year. Similarly, having two or more close relatives who had ovarian cancer confers a higher risk.
Women who have undergone long-term or high-dose estrogen HRT (hormone replacement therapy), women who start their periods early in life, and women who start menopause late in life are at a higher risk for ovarian cancer.
Cancer of the ovaries can be difficult to catch because it’s often symptomless. The following signs usually begin to arise when the tumor metastasizes (spreads to other tissues in the body).
Bloating and/or swelling of the abdomen is an early-stage symptom. But it’s also the most common sign of advanced ovarian cancer.
Bloating occurs when the tumor starts to irritate the inside of the abdominal wall. The stomach responds by producing a fluid, which leads to bloating.
Fluid buildup can also result from cancer cells spreading to the liver or lymphatic system, both of which also produce fluid as a response to foreign irritants.
When the fluid then leaks from the liver or lymphatic system into the stomach, bloating may occur.
It can cause weight gain and/or weight loss as a symptom.
A primary reason for weight loss is that it often causes loss of appetite. And losing the desire for food commonly leads to unintentional weight loss.
Some women with ovarian tumors also experience weight gain, especially if the tumor is large. Constipation — a common sign of ovarian cancer — is another cause of weight gain. Normal digestion can’t occur when you’re constipated.
Belly Pain or Discomfort
When an ovarian tumor gets large enough, it may begin to press against nearby organs like the intestines and colon. This is why many people experience constipation.
The pressure can also lead to issues with the pelvis and lower belly. For example, belly pain or an upset stomach are often ovarian cancer symptoms. Pain during intercourse is yet another sign you may have an ovarian tumor.
Cancerous tumors release hormones. And these hormones can interfere with our body’s natural hormone signaling.
One result of this hormone disruption is that your satiety cues (which make us feel full after a meal) may be thrown out of whack.
You might start feeling full when you haven’t eaten much. Another sign is if you lose your appetite altogether.
Ovarian tumors may also press against the bladder. When this happens, you may feel like you have to go all the time, leading to frequent urination.
Treatment varies depending on how advanced the cancer is, the type of ovarian cancer, and the tumor’s size.
Oncologists’ primary treatment recommendation for ovarian cancer is surgery. The surgeon can remove the tumor. Then, you’ll likely undergo chemotherapy, which will kill off any remaining cells surgery couldn’t address.
Sometimes, it comes back after treatment. Unfortunately, this happens in about 70% of cases. Symptoms of a re-occurring ovarian tumor include:
- Stomach bloating, swelling, or pain
- Nausea and indigestion
- Changes in appetite
- Lower back or pelvic pressure
- Changes in bowel movements
The best way to avoid a relapse is to reduce your risk factors and attend all follow-up appointments with your doctor.
Get Your Top Ovarian Cancer Questions Answered With Oncopower
It doesn’t always present with symptoms until more advanced stages. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the above signs of a tumor on your ovaries.
Do you have more questions about the symptoms of ovarian cancer? Oncopower is a convenient app allowing you to connect with an oncologist whenever, wherever you’re located. Register for Oncopower today!
Are you one of the 168,000 Americans living with metastatic breast cancer? Chemotherapy has been a standard part of treatment for decades. While this is still often a key component, there are several new treatment approaches.
Keep reading to learn about other options that are having a positive impact.
Overview of Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment Goals
Metastatic breast cancer means that breast cancer cells are now in other body parts. This can include nearby tissue or distant areas such as the liver, bones, lungs, or other sites.
The term “overall survival” describes the length of the person’s life. It also includes whether the cancer grows or returns. The goal of treating metastatic breast cancer is three-fold.
Treatments strive to achieve the longest possible survival. They work to limit the side effects of cancer and the interventions. And to achieve the highest quality of life possible.
Currently, there’s no cure for metastatic cancer. Yet, new approaches are prolonging survival.
New Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment Options
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to approve new therapies. These approaches have been proven beneficial in clinical trials before their release. The following gives an overview of these new regimens.
In general, cancer overwhelms and defeats the body’s natural immune system defenses. This allows cancer cells to grow and spread. The goal of immunotherapy cancer treatment is to prevent or slow cancer cell growth.
It blocks the interactions of program cell death 1 (PD-1) receptors with program death ligand 1 (PD-L1). This enhances your body’s antitumor immunity.
Depending on your disease pattern, immunotherapy may be the only treatment. In other cases, it’s combined with other forms of cancer therapy.
There are two agents that the FDA has approved for use combined with chemotherapy. They treat triple-negative metastatic breast cancer (TNMBC) that’s PD-L1 positive.
Tecentriq (Atezolizumab) and Abraxane (Nab-Paclitaxel)
The Impassion 130 study compared using immunotherapy and chemotherapy vs. chemotherapy alone. One group received atezolizumab (immunotherapy) plus nab-paclitaxel (chemotherapy). The other TNMBC group received nab-paclitaxel alone.
Patients with PD-L1 positive tumors had longer survival with the combination therapy.
Keytruda (Pembrolizumab) and Chemotherapy
The KEYNOTE-355 study also evaluated treatment for patients with TNMBC. Some participants received pembrolizumab (immunotherapy) and chemotherapy. The other group had chemotherapy alone.
Combining pembrolizumab and chemotherapy showed improved progression-free survival. This benefited those with PD-L1 positive tumors more than only chemotherapy.
Antibody-Drug Conjugates (ADC)
ADCs are new highly potent biological class drugs. They attach small-molecule anticancer drugs or other treatment agents to an antibody. This antibody then targets specified cells that have a specific antigen on them.
Once the ADC binds to the target cell it delivers the anticancer drug into the diseased cell. This optimizes the drug efficacy while reducing systemic exposure. Thus, patients have fewer side effects.
One ADC trial showed the efficacy of Trodelvy (sacituzumab govitecan) in TNMBC patients. These patients had already undergone at least two chemotherapy regimens.
Another ADC, Enhertu (trastuzumab deruxtecan), was also very effective. This study included patients who already received significant treatments.
Poly (ADP-Ribose) Polymerase (PARP) Inhibitors
PARP is an enzyme that repairs damage to DNA in cells. PARP inhibitors treat cancer by stopping this repair in cancer cells, so they die. These drugs specifically target cancer cells while mostly avoiding healthy cells.
It’s used to treat people with TNMBC and hormone receptor-positive disease. Patients that have HER2-negative disease and express a germline BRCA mutation also benefitted.
This treatment for patients involves an oral medication that’s taken at home. It often has fewer side effects than chemotherapy. There are two PARP inhibitors approved for treating breast cancer at this time.
Lynparza (Olaparib) and Talzenna (Talazoparib)
The OlympiAD study reported improved quality of life with olaparib. The patients have already undergone one to two lines of chemotherapy. The median progression-free survival was 2.8 months longer.
Talzenna (talazoparib) studies also showed improved progression-free survival. This rate was better than patients treated with chemotherapy.
Combined Targeted and Hormonal Therapy
Kisqali (ribociclib) and Ibrance (palbociclib) provide benefits when given with hormone therapy. They belong to the class of drugs called selective cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors.
These drugs inhibit the cyclin-dependent proteins kinase 4 and 6 (CDK4/6). When these proteins become overactive, they help cancer cells rapidly divide and grow.
Thus, they precisely target CDK4/6. The goal is to stop the uncontrollable growth and division of cancer cells.
This drug works best when given with hormone therapies. This stops the estrogen’s stimulation of cancer cell growth.
Hormone receptor-positive (HR-positive) breast cancers grow faster when stimulated by hormones. This includes estrogen and/or progesterone. Hormone therapies work to reduce the levels of these hormones.
Hormone therapies include Femara (letrozole), an aromatase inhibitor, and Faslodex (fulvestrant). Ribociclib, palbociclib, and letrozole are pills that you take by mouth. Fulvestrant comes in a pre-filled syringe that’s injected into the muscle.
This combination regimen offers better survival for women with breast cancer. This specifically included those with metastatic, HER2-negative, or HR-positive types.
Endocrine Therapy (ET) alone or combined with targeted agents reduces the tumor burden. Patients also experience fewer side effects and toxicities compared to chemotherapy. This regimen is useful with receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer.
ETs work by targeting the estrogen receptors to deplete estrogen levels. The goal is to improve quality of life and prolong survival time.
Are You or a Family Member Dealing With Cancer?
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If you or someone you love is suffering from cancer, then you may have heard of immunotherapy.
If you’re wondering ‘what is immunotherapy?’, it’s a form of cancer treatment that helps your immune system battle cancer. Your immune system is there so your body can battle diseases and infections. Your immune system is made up of white blood cells and organs and tissues of the lymph system.
This form of cancer treatment is a type of biological therapy. Biological therapy is a form of treatment using substances from living organisms to treat cancer.
To learn more about immunotherapy, keep reading.
How Does the Immune System Fight Cancer?
Your immune system comprises a complex process your body uses to fight illnesses like cancer. This procedure involves your cells, organs, and proteins.
Cancer can typically beat many of the immune system’s natural defenses, enabling cancer cells to continue to grow. Different forms of immunotherapy work in various ways. Some immunotherapy cancer treatments help the immune system prevent or slow the growth of cancer cells.
Other immunotherapy treatments help the immune system kill cancer cells or prevent cancer from spreading to other areas of the body.
Immunotherapy can be used alone or combined with other different types of cancer treatments.
There are plenty of forms of immunotherapy. They include:
- Monoclonal antibodies and tumor-agnostic treatments, like checkpoint inhibitors
- Oncolytic virus therapy
- T-cell therapy
- Cancer vaccines
The type of immunotherapy drug, dose, and treatment schedule depends on various factors.
These factors include:
- Type of cancer
- Where cancer has spread
Your age, overall health, body weight, and how well you can deal with side effects are also essential to consider. Please speak with your professional health care team regarding why they suggest a specific immunotherapy plan.
Which Cancers Are Treated with Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy cancer treatment drugs have been approved for use with many types of cancer. But, the treatment isn’t yet as widely used as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy.
Speak with your health care team to see if immunotherapy can be used to treat your cancer.
What Are Some Common Side Effects?
Some forms of immunotherapy attack cancer or slow its spread to other areas of the body. Other types make it is easier for the immune system to kill cancer cells. Immunotherapy may lead to the immune system attacking healthy cells, which can lead to side effects.
Some common side effects of immunotherapy treatment include skin reactions. Skin redness, blistering, and dryness are typical reactions to immunotherapy. The skin on the fingertips sometimes cracks.
The skin may also become more sensitive to sunlight. If your skin is scratched, it may break, making it more susceptible to infections. Inflammation surrounding the nails can make grooming, dressing, and other activities challenging or painful.
Other common side effects of immunotherapy include flu-like symptoms. These include fatigue, fever, weakness, vomiting, dizziness, body aches, and chills. These symptoms are especially common in non-specific immunotherapy and oncolytic virus therapy.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is essential to stay hydrated. If you have difficulties keeping any liquids down, speak with your doctor on how to manage these side effects. Many side effects and symptoms will fade alone, but others can be severe and require immediate attention.
Individuals may experience other side effects, including:
- Muscle aches
- Difficulties breathing or shortness of the breath
- Edema (swelling of the legs)
- Sinus congestion
- Weight gain
- Hormone issues, including hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormones. It can cause tiredness and weight gain.
How Often Do You Receive Treatment?
How often and how long you undergo treatment depends on:
- Type of cancer
- How advanced the cancer is
- Type of immunotherapy you receive
- How your body reacts to treatment
You may receive treatment every day, week, or month. Some forms of treatment are provided in cycles. A cycle is a set period of treatment followed by some rest time.
The rest period allows your body the chance to recover, respond to immunotherapy treatment, and create new healthy cells.
How Can You Tell if Treatment Is Working?
Following immunotherapy treatment, you’ll see your doctor often. He or she will provide you physical exams and ask you how you feel.
You will take medical tests, including blood tests and various types of scans. These tests will assess the size of your tumor and scan for shifts in your blood work.
How Is Immunotherapy Provided?
Different types of immunotherapy may be administered in different ways.
These include intravenous (IV.) This is when the immunotherapy treatment goes directly into a vein. Immunotherapy treatment can also be provided orally, available in pills or capsules to swallow.
Topically is another option. Immunotherapy is also available in a cream that you can rub into your skin. The form of immunotherapy can be used for very early skin cancer.
Finally, it can be administered using an intravesical method. This immunotherapy goes directly into the bladder.
Follow up Care
Receiving care for side effects following immunotherapy treatment is essential. While many side effects will fade when treatment ends, some effects can persist beyond the treatment period.
Other side effects may appear months or even years later after treatment. Your health care team can help you manage persistent, long-term side effects.
If you require seamless and remote cancer care, we’re here to help. Learn more about our services and how they can help you comfortably here.